It was June 4th, the last day of the first week of 2017 NA LCS Summer Split, and also the day when Immortals defeated Team SoloMid in a series for the first time.
As we prepared to interview Hojong "Flame" Lee of Immortals, we saw Robert Yip, the team's coach who'd been on stage with the players during the draft phase. We wanted to ask Flame about how Sangsoo "SSONG" Kim, Immortals' new head coach, changed the team. As a fellow coach, we thought he might have a different perspective of how a Korean coach had changed the North American team.
So, we've spontaneously asked Robert to join in, and we've started our first joint coach-player interview with Immortals' Hojong "Flame" Lee and Robert Yip.
Congratulations on winning both matches in the first week by defeating P1 and TSM. Why do you think you were successful in Week 1?
Flame: The first thing that comes to mind is how we grew as a team with the new jungler and coach. I was always confident about my own skill, but now that I know how to play as a team, I feel like I can play much better. Also, we've done better in the draft phase too, so we had the upper hand.
Robert: The team that we have, including the substitute members, is very skillful. More importantly though, everyone worked super hard from Day 1. Everybody plays solo queue, and all the players are ranked high on the ladder. Pobelter is ranked first place, AnDa is ranked fourth place, and everyone else is climbing very high. The motivation that you get when you come downstairs and see everyone playing the game makes the players want to play more by themselves. Even today, we've won, we're tired, but when we go home, we'll play more solo queue because we motivate each other to work hard.
Flame has been with Immortals for two splits. How well do you think Flame has adjusted in the NA LCS?
Flame: I'm not exactly a person who adapts fast. We didn't have a Korean cook or a translator last split, and I wasn't really good at English, so it was very difficult for me to adjust quickly. Now, I'm really grateful that we've got a Korean cook, translator and also Coach SSONG when I asked. I've adjusted pretty well, I'm satisfied with how the team is supporting me this split. Now I just need to focus on myself to improve my game.
Robert: When Flame first came to US, we had an interview before we signed him, and his English was good: He tried to answer the questions in English, and he was motivated to come to North America not for money but to work hard. He brought experience and very good communication in-game, and he is a very nice person. He was very easy to work with, and he improved a lot to be a better team player. As a coach, I'll say that he is very good player.
Flame: Thank you.
Robert, Flame and Huni have a lot of similarity in playstyle. Do they have something in common that Immortals look for?
The playstyle similarity between the two is a coincidence. What we've first looked for in our prospects were two things: motivation and skill. Then we talked and asked many questions to see who'd be the best fit for the team. For example, a Korean player with good mechanics who doesn't want to learn English wouldn't be a good fit, and same with a player who only wants money. We want to make sure that everyone can be friends, kind of like ROX Tigers.
How do you feel about the new head coach, Sangsu "SSONG" Kim?
Flame: SSONG is always thinking about the game, and he is very professional and strict when he needs to be. He could sometimes be too strict, but his results speak for themselves. Also, since he has a good career and good skill as a coach, so we tend to respect his authority.
Robert: SSONG changed the whole culture of the team. I feel like we are a Korean team now, because we have two Korean players, AnDa loves everything about Korea, we eat Korean food everyday, and we talk a lot in Korean too. It's good for Korean players. In spring split, Korean players had some difficulty understanding language in and out of the game, so they didn't feel like NA was their home. In this split, the players are comfortable and happy, and usually happy players play better, so I feel like it's been a good change.
What are your goals for this split, and how much do you feel that you've come to attain that goal?
Flame: I'm not so sure yet, but I think we'll be at about fourth or fifth place in the regular season. Also, I'm sure that we'll improve over time so that we can make it to the Worlds. If we do make it to the Worlds, I feel like we might even have a chance of going to finals as long as we don't meet Korean teams. [Laughs] Seriously, it would be really great if we'd make it to the semis, and I feel like we'll be able to make a breakthrough if we make it to the Worlds.
Personally, I want to become the best top laner in NA and go to the All-stars to meet the fans all over the world. We've improved a lot both individually and as a team compared to before, but we still have a long way to go though, so we are always trying our best. I'll say that I'm about 60% complete as a player this split.
Robert: I'd like our team to be Top 5, but not 'barely making it to playoffs' top 5. I want us to be a strong team going into playoffs, and I want us to keep growing and learning. Maybe, we could go on to the Gauntlet, and maybe we might go to the Worlds. I want to wait until week 2-3 to show whether we are consistent, but I feel like we are at about 70%, but it will depend on how the players and the coach can work on the composition and the playstyle.
Flame, feel free to share whatever that you'd like to say to your fans back home.
I don't go on social media much anymore, and I live in a different timezone with most of my Korean fans. So, I feel like I'm growing more distant from my fans. If I go on to the international stage, I will make sure to do my best, and I hope that the fans would cheer for me there.
Robert, if you have something that you want to say to your players, feel free to share it with us.
Remember today - Remember how you feel, the motivation that you have right now, and how good it feels. Keep practicing hard to so that you can get this feeling every weekend. If you work hard as a team, trust each other and listen; we can have more days like today.